THE Daily Times, Malawi’s oldest daily, carried out an assessment of late President Mutharika‘s Cabinet end of February 2012.
Several ministers from that cabinet have surprisingly been retained by the new president. “Surprisingly” comes in for two main reasons.
Firstly, since the time that the Daily Times carried out its assessment - which was done very well and listed the basis of the scores - nothing, that can be attributed to the people retained has improved.
Secondly, considering that Malawi has 14 million people and 194 parliamentarians, if she had looked hard enough, the new president would not have failed to find people capable of delivering, more so now when she needs to produce results fast.
As below, going one by one of the retained ministers, we have attempted to find the sense behind their re-appointment. The Daily Times grades were on a scale of 1 to 10 – which we have taken the liberty to adopt, and are explained as below:
· 1-2: Do us a favour, resign
· 3-4: Pull up your socks, please
· 5-6: Ok, but you can do better
· 7-8: You are a star
· 9-10: Excellent. You deserve another termPortfolio of Gender, Child & Community Devpt: Reen Kachere sent to Disability & Elderly Affairs
Rene Bessie Kachere is a woman of unknown academic or professional qualifications. But she was for a long time, an activist and served on the boards of several NGOs, prior to her joining politics. She also served as the Executive Director of the Association of Progressive Women.
She earned the highest Daily Times Score. Getting a 6 out of 10
The defining moment of her reign was when men in Lilongwe in January 2012 went on the rampage stripping women wearing trousers and miniskirts. The mayhem spilled over to Mzuzu and Blantyre in the most brazen assault on women's liberties since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1992.
Kachere was caught right in the middle of it performing a dicey balancing act — standing by and appeasing the aggrieved women and carefully massaging their anger against the few guilty men while alienating the rest of the men. She did this very well.
The mandate of this ministry is to protect the rights and welfare of the vulnerable groups of people such as children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities. This is done through legislation and policies as well implementation of planned activities.Shortfalls by the ministry are that:
· Mechanisms to serve as a social safety net for disadvantaged people the ministry is supposed to protect are unclear.
· According to Eye of the Child, the year 2011 saw some strides by the ministry in terms of building up systems to address some of the issues affecting the vulnerable members.
· The passing of the Child Care Justice Act is one example but the ministry hasn’t been able to advocate for adequate resources from the Treasury to implement its programmes, and there is the impression that the minister is satisfied with the meagre allocation her ministry has been receiving which affects service delivery across the country.
· Then there are cases of children found loitering around in the streets, being raped and sodomised by scavengers that the ministry has yet to do anything on. A programme started by former Minister Patricia Kaliati to remove street children and send them for rehabilitation seems to have died on Kachere’s watch.
· A programme to build shelters for abused women and children and another for nursing homes for old people who need care hasn’t taken off under Kachere’s watch.
· Advocacy to address the socio-economic issues as well as negative attitudes affecting persons living with disabilities started with a bang, and quickly as it had started, fizzled out.
· At best: victimised women are just taken to an ill-equipped Victims Support Unit at a police station and children are shipped off to an orphanage, if they are lucky to get into one.
· Not enough proactivity to attract support from development partners e.g. UNICEF.Notable projects or programmes carried out include:
· Early Childhood Development (M'mera Mpoyamba) programme to support communities to set up community based childcare centres. 245 centres established in various districts.
· Social Cash Transfers: Largely supported by donors, K70 million has so far been used to roll out the programme, reaching out to 27,000 households in 7 districts.
· Support to Orphans and Vulnerable Children: drawing support from the Global Fund through the National Aids Commission with government Other Recurrent Transactions funding is progressing
· Capacity Development: Through community development, the government is supporting the infrastructure development of Magomero College to offer diploma/degree courses in social work and other professional courses. Work in Feb 2012 was at an advanced stage with K117 million allocated for this work this financial year.Conclusion on Kachere’s retention in Cabinet and reassignment to a less challenging portfolio:
The Daily Times Score of 6 (Ok, but you can do better) explains why. This score, judging by the average scored by the entire cabinet, is a distinction. Coupled with ingenious ideas - kicking the men in the genitals - on how to fight ritual sex practices must have played a role in her retention. The president needs her; she’s a fighter.
xxxxPortfolio of Agriculture, Irrigation, Water Devpt & Food Security: Peter Mwanza to now renamed Agriculture and Food Security
Professor Peter Nelson Mwanza, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D has held a lot of high ranking posts and therefore one can only expect the best from him.
He got a Score of 4 out of 10What happened?
In the 2011/2012 national budget, the Ministry of Agriculture was allocated K38.3 billion up from K32.7 billion that was approved in the previous financial plan.
The ministry set out to implement several projects but the major ones are the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (FISP), the promotion of cotton production in Malawi, regulation of the tobacco industry and the roll out of the green belt initiative.
Tobacco remains the mainstay of the country's agriculture industry. Over the years, the industry has been facing a number of problems ranging from overproduction of the leaf, child labour, deforestation and increase of non-tobacco materials in the leaf.
The tobacco industry registered an increase in yields from 200 million kg in 2008 to 237 million kg in 2011, according to Tobacco Control Commission figures. Then, in 2011, prices hit rock bottom and the blame was placed on the anti-smoking lobby and a dwindling demand for tobacco on the international market.
Politics was at play too, as the ordered deportation of tobacco barons a few years back created a frosty relationship between the buyers and our government. The low prices of tobacco last year hurt the farmers but left the economy ever more vulnerable.
The Ministry of Agriculture moved to introduce quotas in the industry in a bid to regulate tobacco output and halt overproduction and raise prices at the floors. Indications are that the total national output of tobacco is likely to go down but it remains to be seen if the prices will go up.
Tobacco Control Commission estimated that this year 160 million kg will be produced, but this could be less as many farmers have pulled out of tobacco as a result of quotas and there has been erratic rains in some areas.
In 2011, the ministry was allocated K17.4 billion to procure 140,000 metric tons of fertilizers comprising 70,000 metric tonnes of Urea and 70,000 metric tons of NPK fertilizers to be distributed to 1.4 million farming families under the subsidized farm input scheme.Failures:
· The farm input programme failed to take off this year and work as well as it did previously. Problems include irregularities in the distribution of coupons for buying the inputs as well as corruption at Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depots countrywide.
· Thousands of beneficiaries received coupons in September and October last year but, to-date, they have failed to access the fertilizers and seeds, and we are just a few weeks before the end of the farming season.
· Either, the Ministry of Agriculture did not sure that there were enough supplies of subsidised fertiliser, or the 1.4 million number of beneficiaries was bloated and was probably beyond the ministry's financial capacity.
· Image is tainted by the thousands of subsidy coupons that continue getting dirty in the hands of farmers each passing day with no fertiliser at Admarc depots which could result in food shortages in some households.
· Programme to promote cotton production. Under this programme, farmers got quality cotton seed and pesticides and it is hoped that this will in turn result in the production of quality and improved cotton lint for domestic and export trade this season, thereby generating the much needed forex for the economy.
· The Greenbelt Irrigation and Water Development Initiative, which aims to accelerate irrigation development in the country. The initiative is already paying dividends as some of the irrigation schemes in the country have been rehabilitated and are up and running.Conclusion on Prof Mwanza’s retention in Cabinet:
A Score of 4 (Pull up your socks, please) in the ministry of agriculture, for a country that is practically dependent on agriculture is bad news.
This plus the fact that the professor is a year older than the late president, which renders gone way past his best use by date, adds to the mystery of his retention.
Any cock-up will not only lead to starvation that could erode Joyce Banda’s 2014 chances, but her previous achievements in food security will also go up in flames.
Why has the good old professor been retained? Search me!
Final Part 3 Monday. For Part 1 click here
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment